Bloomsday in Dublin: Everything you need to know
Bloomsday is now a week-long event, with festivities already under way
Graham Wilkinson and Paul Kennedy lead the 25th annual Bloomsday Bike Rally in Dublin. Photograph: Cyril Byrne
Bloomsday: A Celebration of Flowers, right?
No. It’s a celebration of James Joyce’s novel Ulysses, which takes place over the course of a single day, June 16th, 1904.
Sounds like a great day.
It is, though Bloomsday is now a week-long event, with festivities beginning on June 11th.
Do I need to read the book to enjoy it?
Absolutely not. Get up to speed with the storyline and characters in a variety of events that make the famously difficult tome much more accessible. The entire book is being staged at the Abbey Theatre, in an inventive adaptation by Dermot Bolger that mixes music-hall performance traditions with interior monologues (Abbey Theatre, 7.30pm, June 11th-July 27th).
Molly, meanwhile, brings to life the book’s infamous final chapter, placing the bedraggled, lusty Molly Bloom centre stage (Bewleys Cafe Theatre, 1pm, until June 16th). There will be impromptu performances throughout the day in Bewley’s too, and a special dessert, The Bloomsday Hat, for the day that is in it.
Strolling Through Ulysses introduces us to Joyce’s life as well as his most famous work, in the atmospheric environs of the Dublin pubs where much of the book unfolds (various locations, 7.30pm, June 11th-17th), while Ulysses: An Opera (Unitarian Church, 8pm, June 15th and 16th) sets the book to music, an adaptation that Joyce – a fabulous tenor by all accounts – would surely have approved of.
The IFI is screening Sean Walsh’s Bloom, which offers a more straightforward version of the day’s events than the book. And if you are wondering how a day in the life of Dublin today might compare, Piotr Sadowski’s Dublin Only takes a contemporary journey through a Dublin that Joyce would not recognise (DLR Lexicon, 6.30pm, June 13th). Ulysses: Joyce’s Bright Book of Life by Declan Kiberd takes place on Saturday, June 16th, at 11am, in
Notre Dame Centre, Newman Church, St Stephen’s Green.
I’m exhausted already. And hungry.
Fear not. Begin the day as Leopold Bloom did, with a hearty breakfast: a bit of fried liver, pork kidney and a sup of tea. The annual costumed Bloomsday Breakfast serves a traditional fry alongside a soundtrack of music and readings from the book (James Joyce Centre, 8am, June 16th). If you fancy a bit more formality, The Citizen’s Breakfast takes you on a theatrical promenade along Shelbourne Road, before stopping for a morning feast in Slattery’s of Beggar’s Bush (10.30am, June 16th).
If you can’t rouse your appetite for breakfast, an afternoon tea event offers themed sandwiches and music-hall songs (James Joyce Centre, 2.30pm, June 16th). The culinary entertainment could go on all night. The Joyce of Food is a three-hour walking food trail, with a Ulysses-inspired menu (Dublin Castle, 4.30, June 15th), and if you find all the eating is thirsty work, The Joyce of Whiskey, a Joycean pub crawl, should wet your throat for a good sing-song (Dublin Castle, 6pm, June 13th).
It all sounds very edifying. But is there anything for the kids?
With its experimental literary style and sexual preoccupations, Joyce’s work is not really suitable for children, but that doesn’t mean they can’t partake in the festivities. Take a trip out to the James Joyce Tower and Museum in Sandycove where the book opens. Climb to the top and wait for one of the many scheduled performances to begin, while looking down on locals parading in Edwardian costume. The Bloomsday Readings and Songs in Wolfe Tone Square (3pm, June 16th) feature a variety of authors, including YA writer Dave Rudden, who will perform extracts from the work. Ulysses Goes Wild offers a local Joycean nature tour that older children will enjoy (10.30am/1pm/3pm/6pm, June 16th).